Sox need pitching staff to pitch in

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Sox need pitching staff to pitch in

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
The Red Sox' troubles, it now seems obvious, go beyond trying to find ways to find at-bats for David Ortiz on the upcoming nine-game tour of National League ballparks.

In the bigger picture, the offense has sputtered in recent days. The Sox managed just five runs in the final two games of their interleague series with the San Diego
Padres, and even when they struck for 14 runs in the opener Monday, much of that was the result of the Padres' bullpen largesse and not anything the Sox were doing with the bats.

And the issues, which pre-date the whole dilemma surrounding the DH for the next week a a half, are likely to remain for the forseeable future.

The loss of outfielder Carl Crawford is a significant one. Sidelined with a hamstring pull on the first night of the recent homestand, Crawford had emerged from his April
slump as a big contribtor who had helped provide length to the Boston lineup.

From May 1 until he was injured last weekend, Crawford hit .295 with a slugging percentage of .476, piling up 16 extra-base hits over a span of 43 games.

Gone, too, is shortstop Jed Lowrie, who was limited by a sore shoulder for the last few weeks, but still offered some pop in the seventh hole of the batting order.

Suddenly, the Red Sox face the prospect of playing most of their games with the likes of Darnell McDonald, J.D. Drew and Marco Scutaro hitting fifth, sixth and seventh rather than the trio of Ortiz, Crawford and Lowrie.

And the same lineup which seemed to routinely be scoring double figures in runs only a while ago, now feature a dramatic falloff after the cleanup position.

The prospect of a sputtering offense highlights how unproductive the bench has been since the start of the season. McDonald, a valuable role player a year ago, has contributed almost nothing this season. His paltry OPS of .364 is less than half of his .766 OPS a year ago and he has just one extra-base hit in 40 plate appearances this season.

Then there's Mike Cameron, whose .161.227.287 line speaks volumes. At 38, less than a year removed from abdominal surgery, Cameron appears, frankly, to be done.

Moreover, the unavailability of Lowrie has further depleted the team's reserves. Instead of having Marco Scutaro serving as a quality and experienced utility man, the team is left with Drew Sutton, a journeyman 4A player whose limitations are
increasingly evident the more he plays.

None of this would matter as much if the Sox were getting somethinganything from J.D. Drew, who has been both unproductive and disinterested for much of the season.

Drew's .656 OPS is more than 200 points below his career figure of .878. and his play continues a pattern of general decline that began last season.

"I don't get it,'' said a talent evaluator from an American League team when recently asked about Drew. "There doesn't seem to be anything physically wrong with him and I don't see anything has changed in terms of his bat speed. But he's clearly not the same player he was.''

All of which puts greater pressure on the top four hitters in the lineup -- Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis -- to continue carrying the offense for the forseeable future.

Ellsbury and Gonzalez have been locked in almost from the beginning, while Pedroia and Youkilis have ramped up of late. Since getting confirmation that his knee was structurally sound (and receiving an injection of Synvisc), Pedroia has been streaking, scoring 11 runs over those 12 games while compiling a line of .413.525.696.

In roughly that same stretch, Youkilis has been equally hot, taking full advantage of Pedroia being on base more and driving in runs at nearly 1.5 per game (17 in the last 12) while fashioning an OPS of 1.123.

If there's any consolation, it's two-fold.

First, the Red Sox have built the best record in the American League since May 11, going a blistering 27-10 in that span, and, as such, have something of a cushion to protect against a mid-season slump.

Second, the competition isn't exactly daunting. Other than a three-game visit with the Phillies the next week, the Red Sox face the Pirates, Astros and Orioles in 10 of their next 16 games leading up to the All-Star break.

Just as the hitting carried the team in its recent five-week stretch, it's time for the pitching to chip in and get the Sox to the break in one piece.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Porcello loses 10th game as Red Sox fall to Twins, 4-1

Porcello loses 10th game as Red Sox fall to Twins, 4-1

BOSTON -- Twins rookie lefty Adalberto Mejia is feeling more comfortable each time he takes the mound.

Mejia pitched 5 2/3 innings in his second straight scoreless start, Max Kepler hit a two-run homer and Minnesota rebounded from two consecutive losses against Boston to beat the Red Sox 4-1 on Wednesday night.

"He did a nice job," Twins manager Paul Molitor said about Mejia. "He had to kind of battle. It's kind of becoming a little bit of his MO to burn through pitches, but similarly to his last start, he kept walking off the field with zeros."

Kepler also had an RBI single, and Miguel Sano added an RBI double to help the Twins improve to 24-11 on the road.

Mejia (3-3) allowed five hits, struck out three and walked one in his 11th career start. On Friday night at Cleveland, he held the Indians to two hits over five innings in a victory.

"I feel calmer every time I'm out there," he said through a translator. "I think that's why I did better."

Brandon Kintzler got the final three outs for his 21st save.

Boston starter Rick Porcello (4-10) gave up four runs on six hits in six innings, striking out six and walking two. It was his 14th straight start going at least six innings, the AL's longest active streak.

"It's not like they're beating the cover off the ball," Porcello said. "It's just a couple things here and there that I've got to clean up. I'm not making excuses for myself. I definitely hold myself accountable for the loss tonight."

Red Sox manager John Farrell was back in the dugout after serving a one-game suspension Tuesday for poking umpire Bill Miller in the chest during an argument Saturday.

The Red Sox stranded 11 baserunners, and at least one in every inning. Farrell thought his team may have been pressing a bit.

"I thought there were times we might have expanded the strike zone a little bit, trying to make something happen," he said.

With Minnesota leading 2-0 in the sixth, Kepler lined his homer off the back of Boston's bullpen.

In the first, the Twins scored a pair of two-out runs when Sano hit his RBI double down the third-base line and scored on Kepler's broken-bat single.

Xander Bogaerts drove in Boston's run with a bases-loaded grounder in the seventh.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Twins: LHP Glen Perkins resumed throwing Tuesday after a setback last week following offseason shoulder surgery. Molitor said the club is still formulating a plan for him. He's been sidelined all season and pitched in just two games last year.

Red Sox: DH Hanley Ramirez missed his third straight game after getting hit by a pitch on the left knee Sunday. "He'll go through a full workday today," Farrell said. "He's feeling improved."

MATCHES OWN RECORD

Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia played his 98th consecutive error-less game, matching the best mark in club history he set for a second baseman from 2009-10.

LOOKS FAMILIAR

This season has started like 2015 for Porcello, the AL's reigning Cy Young Award winner.

Two years ago when he struggled badly, the righty lost nine of his initial 13 decisions and finished 9-15 with a 4.92 ERA.

ROSTER MOVE

Minnesota right-hander Phil Hughes was activated from the 10-day disabled list and LHP Craig Breslow was put on with rib cage soreness.

Hughes had been on the DL since complaining of a "dead feeling" in his pitching shoulder on May 21. He allowed one run in three innings during three rehabilitation appearances in Triple-A.

Molitor plans to use him out of the bullpen.

UP NEXT

Twins: RHP Kyle Gibson (4-5, 6.23 ERA) looks to continue his success in Fenway Park in the series finale Thursday. He's allowed only one run over 15 innings in two career starts.

Red Sox: LHP David Price (2-2, 4.76) has won his last five decisions against Minnesota, posting a 1.84 ERA.